RNAO’s ongoing media profile: The February and March 2022 report
RNAO continues to speak about prominent nursing and health-care issues. This is a report on our media outreach during the months of February and March.
During February, media stories included coverage on the Black Nurses Task Force (BNTF) report, RNAO’s responses to the reinstatement of Canada’s chief nursing officer role and Ontario’s announcement to ease public health measures, the release of our provincial election platform, and our continued advocacy to #RepealBill124 and fast-track internationally educated nurses (IEN) already living in Ontario to practice nursing.
In March media stories included coverage on the RNAO-CMAT partnership and RNAO nurses providing care to Ukrainian refugees. We also spoke about RNAO’s responses to the following provincial government announcements: retention payments for eligible nurses, the end of the mask mandate and mandatory vaccination policies in long-term care (LTC) homes, and legislation to help strengthen the health-care system. We also shared our position on the federal Liberal-NDP agreement to deliver on dental care and pharmacare.
On Feb. 8, RNAO’s BNTF released its groundbreaking report, Acknowledging, Addressing and Tackling Anti-Black Racism and Discrimination Within the Nursing Profession, which outlines 19 recommendations to tackle structural racism in the nursing profession. In our media release, we said “RNAO is calling for an end to anti-Black racism within the profession and the dismantling of systemic racism in Ontario.” The BNTF’s co-chairs, RNAO’s Past-President Dr. Angela Cooper Brathwaite and NP Corsita Garraway, led this important work and were featured in numerous media interviews across multiple platforms to discuss the report and their experiences with anti-Black discrimination.
In the Toronto Star (Feb. 8), Garraway shared the story of a Black patient who was suffering with gangrene that had gone long unnoticed by health-care workers. “I feel like people just don’t always take the time when they see us,” Garraway said. On CBC Radio (Feb. 9), Cooper Brathwaite shared that there are not enough Black nurses in leadership positions: “Black nurses are underrepresented in leadership but are overrepresented at the frontlines, regardless of what education they have.” Cooper Brathwaite also spoke to CBC News (Feb. 8) about the need for more Black representation in nursing schools: “I have attended three Canadian universities in three different provinces and I’ve never had a Black professor.” In the same story, BNTF member and co-chair of RNAO’s Black Nurses Leading Change interest group Daria Adèle Juüdi-Hope says she has experienced racism on the job but felt humanized once she began working with Indigenous communities. “That is the only place I’ve worked in Canada where people see me, don’t think less of me, respect my education and respect what I have to bring to the table,” she explained.
In a Globe and Mail (Feb. 21) op-ed co-written by Cooper Brathwaite, Garraway and me, we highlighted the need to expunge racism from our profession. “Racism deprives the service, academic and policy sectors of Black expertise, experience and talents. Excluding Black nurses is a lose-lose situation for everyone,” we wrote. I encourage you to read and share the BNTF’s incredibly important report and join us as we continue inspiring and delivering change. We urge you to sign this Action Alert.
Earlier in the month, on Feb. 1, RNAO was thrilled with Health Canada’s call for a chief nurse officer. RNAO initiated and lead nationally the call to reinstate the position of chief nurse officer. RNAO wrote letters to Prime Minister Trudeau, spoke with the PM directly, discussed in the media, and included it again in its 2021 federal election platform. I told the Toronto Star (Feb. 2) that the chief nursing officer will bring the collective voice of nurses to decision makers in parliament.
On Feb. 14, the Ontario government announced it would be moving to the next phase of reopening on Feb. 17. These new measures included increasing indoor social gathering limits to 50 people and removing capacity limits for restaurants, bars, cinemas and gyms. The government also announced its plans to remove proof of vaccination requirements for all settings on March 1. RNAO issued a media release in response to this announcement urging the government to maintain key public health measures to address the catastrophic surgical backlog. In the release, RNAO President Morgan Hoffarth said, “Nurses continue to be on the forefront of care and urge the government to maintain vaccine passports as these encourage people to get vaccinated which must continue to be a key priority to allow the health system to stabilize.” I echoed this in a CityNews (Feb. 15) interview and explained that taking away vaccine passports and putting the onus on businesses to continue to enforce this measure is an error. I also noted that “we need to stabilize the health system for people that have been patiently and anxiously waiting for a long time for their procedures and surgeries.”
RNAO also continues to advocate in media interviews for expedited processing of IEN applications so they can practice nursing in Ontario and help to alleviate our province’s nursing crisis. In a letter to the editor published in the Kingston Whig-Standard (Feb. 18), I said: “We must enable all IENs who are eagerly waiting on the sidelines to join the workforce.” RNAO continues our #IENaction social media campaign to raise awareness and urge the government to take action. Visit the webpage to learn how you can participate.
On Feb. 23, RNAO held its 22nd annual Queen’s Park Day virtually. This signature event allows for our members to hear from leaders from all political parties and ask them questions about important issues. The morning of the event, we held a media conference to release our 2022 provincial election platform. With the provincial election approaching on June 2, it is important to make nurses’ voices heard. On CP24 (Feb. 24), I said that “without nurses there is no health-care system.” During QPD, Minister of Health Christine Elliott announced that the provincial government has expanded the scope of practice for NPs to order MRI and CT scans as well as perform point of care testing, effective July 1, 2022. NPs play an important role in our health-care system and RNAO is pleased to see our advocacy has once again elicited necessary action from government.
In early March, RNAO partnered with the Canadian Medical Assistance Teams (CMAT) to call for RNs and NPs to volunteer to provide care for refugees arriving in Poland from Ukraine. On March 5, executive director of CMAT and RNAO member and NP Valerie Rzepka and RNAO member and RN Brandon Duncan, travelled to Poland and a team of nurses, doctors and other health providers arrived shortly after them. Rzepka told CTV News (March 18) that it was busy at the Polish-Ukrainian border: “Our team here is a primary medical team and we are providing medical care to people who are walking or driving across the border.” RNAO member and RN Ameek Singh shared with Global News (March 19) that he was amazed to see all the volunteers coming together to help people. “I just want to show that this is the Canadian way,” said Singh, adding that “We try our best to help each other and that same spirit is alive here as well.” RNAO member Jordan Lenz, another member of the deployment, is also cited in the article. Duncan, who is from Southwestern Ontario, told the London Free Press (March 21), “This is my passion… offering my services to people who are in the most desperate time of their lives and giving them a little glimmer of hope.” RNAO member, RN and MPP Natalia Kusendova, who played a key role in the response efforts, was profiled in a CBC Radio interview. To learn more about the CMAT response in Ukraine and see more news stories, visit RNAO’s website. Other RNAO members who joined the CMAT deployment are NP Corsita Garraway and former RNAO Board of Directors member RN Nathan Kelly.
On March 7, the Ontario government announced details of retention bonus payments of up to $5,000 to eligible nurses in the province. However, the premier did not agree to #RepealBill124 which caps wage increases for nurses and other public sector workers to one per cent annually. On CP24 Tonight (March 7), I said that while the temporary retention payment begins to acknowledge the extended stress nurses have had, the bonus is not enough. “What will help retain nurses is both the compensation and the workloads,” I said. “The workloads are brutal and need to improve. Retaining nurses is essential.” I urge the premier to repeal Bill 124 to keep nurses in the profession and show them the respect they deserve. If you haven’t already, please sign and share our Action Alert to demand Premier Ford #RepealBill124.
On March 9, Ontario’s Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Kieran Moore announced the government’s decision to lift the mask mandate in most indoor settings (effective March 21) and the vaccination mandates in LTC homes (effective March 14). In our response, RNAO called this move ill-conceived. On AM800 (March 9), RNAO President Morgan Hoffarth said many settings, including classrooms, still don’t have the infrastructure in place to be safe. “It feels too early. There’s still a lot of areas where physical distancing isn’t possible, and ventilation isn’t great. We have people who will continue to be at risk,” said Hoffarth. In a letter published in the Globe and Mail (March 13), I noted that many children are still too young to be vaccinated and vaccination rates for those who are five to 11 are low. “The government’s actions risk undoing the gains we have made to contain COVID-19,” I wrote. RNAO board member and RN Debra Lefebvre shared her concerns for hospitals with The Kingston Whig-Standard (March 18): “With the lifting of mask mandates and leaving people to make their own decisions about masking, this could lead us into another crisis in overflow and cause a huge surge demand… by way of staff.” The pandemic is not over. I encourage you to continue wearing your mask and to get vaccinated.
On March 29, Minister of Health Christine Elliott announced the government’s plan to expand policies and measures to ensure the province has a more resilient health-care system that can better respond to crises. This plan includes expanding the Community Commitment Program for Nurses that would reimburse tuition for RN and RPN students who commit to practice in underserved communities for two to four years. On CP24 (March 29) I said that ensuring rural and northern communities have the number of nurses they need is incredibly important. “We need to provide good access everywhere in the province for everybody.” The plan also includes making it easier and quicker for internationally educated nurses (IEN) to join Ontario’s nursing workforce by reducing barriers to registration, including prohibiting regulatory colleges from making Canadian experience a requirement for qualification and streamlining conditions on language proficiency. While there are many positive aspects to this plan, I told the Globe and Mail (March 29) that it does little to counter Bill 124. “That is the real killer of retention for nurses,” I said.
On March 22, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and NDP leader Jagmeet Singh announced a historic agreement that would see the NDP support the minority Liberal government on confidence votes in exchange for movement on a number of NDP policy priorities, including a national dental care program and pharmacare. In an RNAO media release issued in response, I said this agreement “represents a way forward to improve the health and wellbeing of Canadians.” RNAO is also pleased the agreement addresses critical social and environmental determinants of health. RNAO’s President Morgan Hoffarth says “increasing investments in affordable housing is essential. Housing is a fundamental determinant of health.” RNAO has advocated for years on the need for action in these areas, most recently in our 2021 federal election platform. I am pleased to see the Liberals and NDPs working together to improve the health care of all Canadians.
Media outreach in February resulted in 217 media hits and in March resulted in 97 media hits. We will continue to speak out on important issues and push for the federal and provincial governments to take action when and where it’s needed. For the latest RNAO media interviews and activities, visit our COVID-19 press room and engage with us on Twitter.